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News / Life / Clark County Life

Energy Adviser: Tree trimming helps keep power up

By Clark Public Utilities
Published: November 5, 2022, 6:02am

As beautiful as the trees in the Southwest Washington area are, they can make life difficult for electric customers and their energy providers — especially over the winter months.

While Clark Public Utilities allocates significant resources into the vegetation management program, tree-related outages are inevitable in the Pacific Northwest region. The biggest storms of the year typically hit between fall and early spring. But the weather itself isn’t what causes power outages — it’s typically the trees or branches the storm knocks down.

“Fallen limbs and downed trees are responsible for about half of our power outages,” said Clark Public Utilities Forestry Maintenance Manager Paul Wienecke. “But our proactive vegetation management program, which includes customer vegetation management requests, helps to limit the number of outages we experience in our service area while helping us reduce the severity of those outages when they do occur.”

Wienecke manages the utility’s vegetation management program, which monitors, trims, and occasionally removes vegetation along more than 1,500 miles of power lines throughout Clark County. The utility takes a proactive but ecologically conscious approach to its vegetation management program.

The utility works with experienced arborists that undergo extensive training to become qualified to trim around high voltage lines where precision cuts are critical. Each undergoes more than 40 hours of annual training on safety and proper pruning techniques to maximize safety for the public and preservation of the tree’s health.

These skilled workers must balance achieving safe line clearances with arboricultural correct pruning. When the work is done, the tree is a safe distance away from overhead power lines and sure to continue growing healthy, strong and sturdy.

This careful approach has earned Clark Public Utilities the honor of being a Tree Line USA utility by the Arbor Day Foundation 23 years in a row.

Due to Clark Public Utilities’ commitment to public safety and correct pruning techniques, our customers experience fewer and significantly shorter outages than many others both in our region and across the U.S.

No matter how advanced the tools become, customer reports will always be among the most important in helping mitigate tree-related outages before they occur. We regularly respond to requests from customers about trees that present a danger to our power system. These reports are taken very seriously, and all trimming related to primary power lines is performed free of charge.

Customers who are concerned that a tree could affect power lines should call the utility’s customer service line at 360-992-3000. The representative will ask a series of questions and triage the request. Customers can also report the tree at ClarkPublicUtilities.com by searching for “request a tree trimming.”

It only takes a few minutes to complete the form. A utility employee may follow up with you if more information is needed. Customers can also email forestry@clarkpud.com if they have specific questions.

“We have a policy of responding to trim requests within seven business days,” Wienecke said. “We conduct a site assessment after receiving the report to determine the seriousness of the report and then decide on how best to move forward and schedule a tree trimming crew if needed.”

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.